Kumiko House Pension
Rana Ghat (Ganges river front), Varanasi, India
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Kumiko House Pension Varanasi Reviews
Incredible value and fabulous character at one of Varanasi's best placed Pensions. Dec 17, 2009
Okay, one for those of you like me who like your budget as low as you can go, but if it's at all possible at cost, the charm and character of your accommodation high. Kumiko House Pension fits this bill most perfectly.
A grand old building sat atop the ghat steps of, I think, Rana Ghat (apologies but someone's torn off that corner of the business card to use as a roach) on the Ganges waterfront Kumiko is well placed; just 30 seconds walk from Bengali Tola the main backstreet drag of restaurants, shops, travel agents, music schools, cafes (internet and otherwise) and all other things to make a tourist a happy tourist as well as being right besides the best chai shack on the banks of the Ganges where travellers and locals mingle all day long. Dasaswamedh Ghat where the beautiful Aarti puja ceremony is performed every night is just 3 minutes walk away. Kumiko is a long-standing Varanasi dormitory stalwart renowned within the Japanese and Korean travel communities who form the vast majority of its floating population. This will be in no small part due to the presence of Kumiko San, the middle-aged Japanese lady who moved to India long ago after marrying her Indian philosopher love Shanti. More of them in a bit though 'cos you're after practicals right?
Kumiko has a dormitory of maybe 12 to 15 beds set about a communal area, at 50 Rupees a night (65p) and also a few private rooms at about (I think?) 150 Rupees a night ( £2 ). I'll make no bones, the dorm beds are not the most comfortable for your bones. You'll know the type. One inch thick 'mattress' on top of hard wood board. This is more cultural preference than privation though. The Japanese and Koreans prefer such surfaces generally to the spine spongifying, posture wrecking beds westerners get used to. But you'll sleep an' it's cheap so quit whining! :) Bathrooms are communal. A 24 hour cold shower and 'Indian style' squat toilet are in the dorm. A hot shower is available between 6.30am and 9.00am on the ground floor where a 'western style' loo is located too. A small terrace roof permits grand views up and down the Ganges and this is wear the many very keen students of yoga and tabla and jambai drums ascend to try out their new skills throughout the day.
It all makes for quite a cramped but very cosy, near family environment as Kumiko, Shanti and their two dogs Poppy (who has a pathological urge to chew toilet paper) and Dolly seem to permanently inhabit the ground floor entrance room. In fact they do curl up there of nights. Shanti is a real character with his slippers, wild white beard, thick-lensed glasses, tea-cosy hat, lungi 'skirt' and long ski-pole staff. Always happy for a broken English chat and very friendly and keen, if encouraged, to show you a few of his old publications, one of which contains a photo of him with Pandit Nehru (first Minister of Independent India) as well as, more momentously, a fine sixties snap of him and a young, blushing Kumiko. While staying here please be noticed by Shanti whilst trying to take one of the many age-dusted books from the communal shelf out of the premises to read over chai. His over-fastidious reaction is hilarious! But this is to your benefit too as he is on the constent look out to advise and help you with how to conduct yourself (safety etc...) whilst in Varanasi.
For a mere 40 Rupees (50p) each breakfast and dinner can be had everyday at 8.00am and 19.00pm respectively. These are extremely generous affairs for the price. Breakfast, as you all sit snug and tight together chatting, is a largely unvaried eat-as-much-as-you-can-without-being-rude affair with refillable mugs of chai, a large metal canteen of toasted bread slices, another of nicely seasoned salad, boiled eggs, tonnes of jam, peanut butter, mayo and whatever other condoments are your pleasure. Any excess from last nights dinner is put out too. This truly sets you up for the day! Dinner is usually several courses, varying every day, and a mixture of Asian and semi-western cuisine.
The best thing about meal times though? - Shanti's fantastic 'call to arms' announcements that breakfast or dinner are served : 'BREAKFAST TIME!!! BREAKFAST TIME!!! PAMU GO!! PAMU GO!! GOOD MORNING EVERYBODY, BREAKFAST IS SERVED!!! COME AND GET YOUR LOVELY BREAKFAST!!! PAMU GO!!! PAMU GO!!!' he bellows up the narrow stairwell. It's priceless, and you'll never need an alarm clock!
I've rated Kumiko 4 star overall as in terms of its comforts and amenities this is all an objective reviewer would be able to honestly give it. But with Kumiko, Shanti, Poppy & Dolly, the fabulous techni-coloured and philosophic sprawl of art and graffiti that have accrued upon the dormitory walls over the years ( 'In India, impossible is nothing. You can do everything you want. Do that.' ), the great, warm and trustworthy ( laptops and iPods left out on your bed all day - no problem!) company that Japanese and Korean travellers always provide; for food, cost and sheer character this is one of Stevie's truly 5 star stops around the globe!
Part of the Me and The World etc... travel blog
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